The announcement comes after the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal ruled in Morales’ favor despite a slim “No” majority in a constitutional referendum in 2016 that asked whether the top two executive positions should be able to run for a fourth consecutive term.
Morales was elected to the presidency in December 2005 as the first-ever indigenous president in indigenous-majority Bolivia. It was a landslide victory, and he remains the longest-serving president in the country’s history.
Asked in an interview by BBC Mundo whether he feared putting his domestic legacy at risk by appearing to want to continue his rule until 2025, Morales replied: “I’ve never dreamed of being a leader, less so a president. (I’d rather) go back to my farm, with my people, to work, that’s what I want. But I feel an obligation… A destiny to remain as president.”
Morales defended his decision to run for reelection by pointing to his strong popularity – almost 60 percent, according to an Ipsos/RTP poll published in October (link in Spanish). He also cited his administration’s successful efforts in more than halving Bolivia’s extreme poverty, from 38 percent to 17 percent, according to a government report; and by highlighted Bolivia’s strong economic growth during his rule. Bolivia’s gross domestic product (GDP) has tripled since Morales took office, from $11.4 billion in 2006 to $33.8 billion in 2016 (World Bank).
Morales also said that he wasn’t going against the Constitution, but was merely applying it.
Asked whether he thought there Bolivia should have presidential term limits, he replied: “The people decide that. We can’t qualify it.”
Morales’s critics on the left accuse him of forgoing his espoused values, while those on the right criticize him for what they say are authoritarian tendencies and his staunch defense of coca production, which they claim contributes to the illegal production of cocaine. Bolivia is the third-largest producer (BBC Mundo) of cocaine after Colombia and Peru.
While coca is legal to plant in Bolivia and has many traditional uses in Andean culture, its production is capped at a level deemed sufficient by the government to satisfy national medicinal, research, and industry needs.
In 2013, the European Union estimated that the legal demand for coca in Bolivia stood at 14,700 hectares, significantly less than the 22,000 hectares Morales approved in a controversial March 2017 law.
When asked whether he needed the presidency or the presidency needed him, Morales said Bolivians need unity to continue with his socially progressive revolution and pointed to his predecessors lacklustre record.
“What have [our leaders] done in the past? They partied with Bolivian money” Morales said. “When I was a soldier, [there were] three presidents in a year. In the five years before our revolution, we had a new president every year. Now I’m going to have been 12 years next month.”